Written by Dean Spirou, Senior Behaviour Therapist and Early Intervention Consultant
1. Deliberately schedule in some one-on-one time
Sounds straight forward but how often do we really spend uninterrupted one-on-one time with our children? Children crave our undivided attention. Deliberately scheduling in individual time with them is one of the best ways to build a stronger relationship and connection with them. It strengthens the parent-child bond by providing them with the space and time they might need to open up to parents about their thoughts, interests and any troubles. It can be as simple as deliberately marking off a space in your schedule to go for a walk with your child, to take a trip to the library together, or to sit down together on the couch and have a cup of hot chocolate. Showing your child that you have marked this time off in your calendar/diary and that you will turn off your phone during that time also demonstrates clearly to your child that you treat such time as a high priority, which in turn, builds your child’s self-confidence.
2. Pyjama walks!!!!
Yes, this means going for a walk with your child once they are in their PJs! Sounds left-field but it is a fun and memorable way for your child to spend time with you and feel like they are having “special treatment”. Get your child completely ready for bed (e.g. bath, pajamas on, teeth brushed) and then as the sun is going down, take a stroll around the block with your child. You don’t have to wander far at all. In these moments your child will be able to enjoy your company without the distraction of television or video games. This ritual is something they will look forward to and is also great for spending time with Grandma or Grandad.
3. Cooking together
There are two simple rules to make this a success and not a stressful-ruin-your-evening event. First, Keep It Simple (KIS)! Choose a recipe where the child is involved most of the time ‘doing the fun stuff’ like mixing, stirring etc. Duck a l’Orange is Duck a I’Boring for your child because they are just there to watch. Second, this will get messy no matter what you make so be ready for that with wipes, aprons and an empty bin as well as loads of patience! Your child will experience a sense of accomplishment, develop essential life skills and be pleased with the final product (even if you need to eat it and just look like you enjoy it).
4. Family fun night
Each week designate one night as family fun night. This is essentially a night of fun where you choose an activity that everyone loves doing and do it together as a family. Prioritising one night of the week will not only ensure a night of fun, laughter and good memories but also demonstrate to your child that they are important and a priority to you. It can involve things like board games or card games, dress ups for dinner (e.g., a mad hatter’s dinner), dancing around the house, an “old-fashioned” movie night with ice cream cones and pop-corn.
5. Sport/ exercise
Playing a sport together with your child is a great way to build a healthy connection. Find out what sport your child likes to play and designate one day/night a week to playing this sport. You could even play in the comfort of your backyard. Alternatively, exercise together in lieu of playing a sport, for example go swimming or running together. This activity has great physical health benefits as well as being tremendous fun.